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Word order, referential expression, and case cues to the acquisition of transitive sentences in Italian

Abbot-Smith, K. and Serratrice, L. (2015) Word order, referential expression, and case cues to the acquisition of transitive sentences in Italian. Journal of Child Language, 42 (1). pp. 1-31. ISSN 0305-0009

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S0305000913000421

Abstract/Summary

In Study 1 we analysed Italian child-directed-speech (CDS) and selected the three most frequent active transitive sentence frames used with overt subjects. In Study 2 we experimentally investigated how Italian-speaking 2;6, 3;6 and 4;6-year-olds comprehended these orders with novel verbs when the cues of animacy, gender and subject-verb agreement were neutralised. For each trial, children chose between two videos (e.g. horse acting on cat versus cat acting on horse), both involving the same action. The 2;6-year-olds comprehended S+object-pronoun+V significantly better than the S+V+object noun sentences. We explain this in terms of cue collaboration between a low cost cue (case) and the ‘first argument = agent cue’ which we found to be reliable 76% of the time. The most difficult word order for all age groups was the object-pronoun+V+S. We ascribe this difficulty to cue conflict between the two most frequent transitive frames found in CDS, namely ‘V+object-noun’ and ‘object-pronoun+V’.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Clinical Language Sciences
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
ID Code:66678
Publisher:Cambridge University Press

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